Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Authenticity of Self ( July 08 )

It all starts innocently enough
The first time you recognize your own reflection.
Perhaps it is when you are brushing your teeth, standing on your "steppy stool" by the bathroom sink
Suddenly it dawns on you
That face beaming back from the mirror is YOU
Your very own self.
It's a revelation
Human infants have no capacity for self-awareness.
Then sometime between your first and second birthday you become aware of your own thoughts and feelings
Now begins a journey that will consume much of your life.
How well you do and where you go may very well depend on the strength and character of your very heart and soul.
You embark on this quest to define "you"
A lifelong search for the one "true self" and a feeling of behaving in accordance with that self
This can be called the quest for authenticity.
A hunger for authenticity guides us in every age and aspect of life.
It drives our explorations in all areas including but not limited to work, relationships, play and prayer.
It can consume our body, mind and soul.
As we move out of childhood - which is mostly controlled by the adults in our immediate sphere of influence- we gain the capacity to start to investigate who we are and who we want to be.
Teens and "twenty something's"  try out EVERYTHING They examine their friends, fashions, hobbies, jobs, lovers, locations, and living arrangements all to see what fits
Eventually - thru personal growth and enlightenment -  they eliminate the "just not me's."
"Mid lifers" tend to deepen their commitments to their choices that match their now well-defined self-images or they feel trapped in existences that do not seem their own.
Elders regard life choices with regret or satisfaction based largely on whether they were "true" to themselves.
It is a true circle of life
It seems to have gone on throughout time - in every society known to mankind - modified only perhaps by local custom or language
Questions of authenticity determine our regard for others as well.
We tend to judge or categorize others based on how they live up to and fit into our standards and parameters.
It is a continual process that ebbs and flows according to our stage and self awareness at the time
Self-awareness and authenticity may also be a cornerstone of mental health.
Authenticity - or the new buzz term - "reality based living" - has been correlated with many aspects of psychological well being including - but not limited to - vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills.
Acting in accordance with one's core self - a trait called self-determination - is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs
Sadly though - it is my observation that - increasingly - contemporary culture seems to mock the very idea that there is anything solid and true about the self.
Cosmetic surgery, perpetual makeovers, even the desire for designer cloths - all favor a mutable ideal over the genuine article itself ( self ) .
MySpace profiles and "tell all" blogs are just the latest examples of exaggerations and fantasy filled, wishful identity seeking individuals. .
Steroids, stimulants and other drug-induced transformations all seem perfectly acceptable to enhance athletic and academic performance.
Fabricated memoirs become best sellers.
Amid this clutter of counterfeits -  the core self is struggling to assert itself.
Reaching epidemic proportions - people feel more and more overwhelmingly like they're not living who they really are
The result is a sense of near-desperation.
Just what IS this "authenticity" then anyway and how can we incorporate it into our lives and achieve this peace of mind we all seem to be seeking?
Authenticity is like the unimpeded operation of one’s true or cores self in one's daily life
It must contain an element of self-awareness
The knowledge of - and trust in - one's own motives, emotions, preferences and abilities.
Self - awareness encompasses an inventory of issues from the sublime to the profane
It is necessary for clarity in evaluating your strengths  - and - more to the point - your weaknesses
It helps you to acknowledge when you have not done so well without resorting to denial or blame.
Authenticity also helps turn up behavior
It requires acting in ways congruent with your own values and needs - even at the risk of criticism or rejection.
It becomes necessary for close relationships because intimacy cannot develop without openness and honesty.
People who score high in authenticity may also be more likely to respond to difficulties with effective coping strategies rather than resorting to drugs, alcohol, or self-destructive habits.
They appear to enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and purpose, have confidence in mastering challenges and the ability to follow through on pursuing goals.
Whether authenticity causes such psychological boons or is a result from them isn't yet clear to me but the suggestion is this may be why people crave authenticity and those low in authenticity are likely to be more defensive, suspicious, confused, and easily overwhelmed.
Pinning down the true self is an increasingly difficult task.
Western philosophers have sought some pure and enduring touchstone of "I-ness" ever since Socrates began interrogating the citizens of Athens.
He famously asserted that the unexamined life is not worth living
Aristotle later connected the fruits of self with a theory of authentic behavior that was not so much about letting your "freak flag" fly as about acting in accordance to a "higher good,"
This - Aristotle regarded - as the ultimate expression of selfhood.
Spiritual and religious traditions also equate authenticity and morality.
In the Judaic tradition people do the right thing because they see it as an expression of their authentic selfhood.
Christianity implies that this well meaning self is the eternal soul who we really are and that sinners are simply out of touch with their core selves.
This would imply that all humans are basically good at heart
But that would be a whole other discussion ... 
Enlightenment philosophers secularized ideas of selfhood but it was not until the 20th century's existentialists the question or idea that some original, actual, ultimate self resides within.
To the existentialist the self was not so much born as made.
It was assumed that one's choice of action could create the self
In Sartre's words "existence precedes essence."
For Heidegger and other like thinker’s authenticity was an attitude
It was the project of embracing life, constructing meaning and building character without fooling yourself that your so - called essence matters in any absolute
Do we invent this authentic self or do we discover it?
Socrates believed we discover it
The existentialists say we invent it.
Our headspace appears to be messier than we pretend or will admit
This search for authenticity is doomed if it's aimed at restricting our identities to what we want to be or who we think we should be.
The authentic self isn't always pretty.
It's just real.
To compound matters I believe we all have multiple layers of self and ever-shifting perspectives of it  
Whether there is a core self or not - we certainly seem to want to believe that there is
It appears to give us a sense of security and purpose
And this longing to live from that self is real - as is the suffering of those who feel they aren't being true to themselves.
Most of us experience authenticity - or the lack there of - less dramatically - as vague dissatisfaction - a sense of emptiness - or the sting of self-betrayal.
That "I'm still feeling unfulfilled" feeling that nags at our inner most being
Feelings of in authenticity can be so uncomfortable that people resort to extreme measures to bring their outer lives in alignment with their inner bearings.
Another reason we are not always true to ourselves is that authenticity is not for the faint of heart.
The potential downside of authenticity seems to be the fact that accurate self -knowledge can be painful.
Behaving in accord with your true self may also bring on the disfavour of others
Opening oneself up to the intimate makes one vulnerable to rejection or betrayal
It can feel better to be embraced as an impostor than dumped for the person you really are.
Authenticity also requires making conscious, deliberate, informed choices based on accurate self -knowledge.
If you are not being honest with yourself the choices you make will all be tainted.
The act and willingness to evaluate nearly everything that you do is no easy task
It can be - and most often is - time consuming and overwhelming
In today's culture - where even simple acts require conscious consideration among so many choices and alternatives - such freedom can be exhausting.
Deliberation -  no matter how trivial - exacts a cost in psychic energy - of which we have only a finite amount.
So here we are - stuck with our self-awareness - or lack there of - which also compels us to continually define and refine our sense of selves as unique individuals against a background of conformity, superficiality, exhibitionism - and lots of other unique individuals.
But wait - there's more.
In order to realize an authentic life one often has to set aside hedonistic well-being - the kind of shallow, short-lived pleasure we get from acquiring things - for that selfless well-being - a deeper, more meaningful state - in which gratification is not usually immediate. Sissies need not apply.
The fact is that we tend to flourish under the most challenging circumstances
Enduring pain and confusion can bring out the best—and most authentic in us - fostering such deeply satisfying qualities as wisdom, insight, and creativity.
But our cultural climate is filled with an alluring array of distractions
The really hard work is the amount of ego wrangling required to contact the core self.
One of the biggest barriers to authentic behaviour is the arbitrary and rigid self-image that so many of us nurture but which in fact distorts experience and limits self-knowledge. .
We each acquire a mixed set of "should, ought’s, and have-to's" whilst still too young to process them.
They are acquired through convention and the expectations of others.
Getting beyond these arbitrary concepts often demands the kind of soul - searching that most of us put off or avoid entirely.
In fact much of the work that people do in cognitive and behavioral therapy is to hold such beliefs up to the light and examine where they came from - a necessary step to resolving the issues that typically cause the behaviour that drive people to seek help.
Jung said if you want to heal yourself the first thing you should do is take a look at those things that are dark in you -  the things that are problematical - the things that you don't like about yourself
You have to be willing to look at things that don't fit snugly into the image you have of what you would like to be before you can become that image
Becoming authentic means accepting not only contradiction and discomfort but personal faults and failures as well.
We are all very subtle and very complex creatures,
There are forces and resources within us that we have no control over.
I don't know if we will ever truly find the limits of who we are.
Not in this earthly condition
Eastern spiritual traditions have long furnished ways they believe give glimpse to the messiness of the self and to view with detachment the vicissitudes of mind and emotion that run amiss in the human consciousness.
Buddhism takes the self in all its variability as the principal subject of contemplation
The yoga tradition is an extension of this self-study which is of great importance.
The Hindu fundamentalists suggest we also have a duty to act
They advocate we need to realize our full potential in the world and to construct or discover a unique individuality thereby causing us to live authentically.
One of the closest things I have found to help solve this the mystery of the self is that you may have to discern your own highly idiosyncratic gifts- find your own highly idiosyncratic calling - what makes you unique from others - and then go for it
Real fulfillment seems to come from authentically grappling with the possibilities inside you - in a disciplined, concentrated, focused way
But more on that later …
In the end I think we are all more alike than different but just different enough to be unique
I think we are - in fact - all part of a whole or greater thing and if we can connect to that then we will find our true self - or at least a glimpse of it .

Strange Vibrations ( and Narnia ) ( July 08 )

The Universe is churning
There are strange vibrations and happenings to be sure
It’s a FULL moon
Everyone I know - especially those who are close to me - including myself - seem to be going thru some "major shit" and having to face themselves and their character straight up and personal 
I have spent the last few days embroiled in emotional upheaval
I did not and could not feel right
My skin was crawling
My stomach in knots
I was on the verge of loosing it ALL
Then - today - it ALL became CLEAR
I had to write
Not for myself but for others
Some of it has legal implications but that is not the point of this blog
Whilst sifting thru my previous dossiers I came across the title Narnia
I HAD to open it up and SEE what I wrote
And now I HAVE to share ...
I'm not clear on the meaning but feel sure it is what I am to do ...
I know there is someone out there who NEEDS this

Growing up ... I was never much of a "reader". I was always wanting to be outside ... doing "something" .
I skated thru school by the seat of my pants and to this day I will never truly understand how or why I was accelerated so many times ?
One day - much to my parents relief - Mrs. Gundill , my 5th grade teacher, at the end of her wits I am sure, TRYING to get me to take the saddle and become a member of the readers club -suggested a book called "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe"
Half-heartedly I obliged. Actually - I was afraid she would make me stay in for detention or something. She was a very strict English School Marm. Never had any children herself. She had taught both my brother and my sister and lived in Lorne Park Estates so she already knew way too much about me to begin with!
In any event - I read the book and much to my surprise - could not put it down.
It was in fact - my introduction or "hook" into the literary world - much like Harry Potter has been for millions of young ( and old ) readers today.
Can you imagine my glee when I learned they would be bringing my mentor to screen ?
I have anxiously awaited this moment and this weekend - with my Bestest Buddy BJ and my "other son" Joe - I will have the privilege to once again entre the enchanted world of Narnia!
I cant help but think as my life continues to undergo these upheavals and transitions - none of which I asked for and none of which I wanted to be sure - all of which I have fought against ( or until most recently anyway ) - as I slip into these uncharted waters - isn't it nice - and somehow ironic - that a part of my childhood, a part of my past that provided me with the strength and security that has enabled me to deal with all that I have dealt with over the past few years - has suddenly re emerged ...
I truly believe all things happen for a reason and as someone very dear to me most recently pointed out ( and reminded me ) - NIKE - Just Do It - !
Fate or serendipity?
Who knows - I am only glad and looking forward to the joy that I know it will bring to me
Yeah - One of those "warm and fuzzes" I was talking about the other day !

STUFF ( Aug 08 )


We have become so "stuff" oriented ...

Never did I realize that more than when I went thru my separation and divorce process.

The Sperm Donner had taken off with - and "hidden" MOST of our "stuff" - telling anyone who would listen he was going to stash as much of it away as he could because he was certain I was going to "screw him" in the divorce (?)

Not sure of the thinking there but ...

This whole "stuff" thing has been re enforced even stronger due to the fact that I have been in Texas now almost a year a MOST of my "stuff" - which I will remind you has been reduced to 67 plastic container / bins now placed neatly in a storage unit I pay $250 a month for the pleasure of keeping  - I would use the word tubs but that sounds strangely inappropriate at this moment - most of those bins containing  "stuff" I have been saving for my kids - are STILL in storage.

Point is ...
I am back to thinking about "stuff" and I have made some additional observations and suggestions to help those of you who may want to rid yourself of "stuff"

First - Avoid people who want you to want more stuff...
Throw away catalogs without reading them.
Don't watch commercials on television.
Don't read the ads in the weekly paper.
Don't hang out in shopping areas for recreation.
Next - Realize how much junk you have now and how much trouble it is.

PS Take a complete inventory of your house contents for insurance purposes.

On Donnas Death ( Aug 08 )

Any death is tragic - especially for those who are left behind.  
May Hali find peace in the fact that her mother went quickly and probably did not suffer ( much )
That having been said - though I only met Donna once - and talked to her over the phone twice - I do know she was a strong spirit and a force to be reckoned with
My son - who lived with her for a short period of time - said her love and care for animals was to be greatly admired and no one can deny her love for and affection for Hali
My reality and experience with Donna was not of such a positive nature
She knowingly perpetuated a relationship with my then husband whilst I was in Orlando with our son who was undergoing treatments for a brain tumour
She physically assaulted me when I went to confront her about the situation
She took into her procession much of what "was mine" and had taken me - and my family - 20 years to accumulate
She did all this and never once seemed bothered about it
Please understand - I in no way feel vindicated - or even happy any of this has transpired but I do not want what she said and did in life to be overshadowed by death
No person is perfect - least of all me
There are three sides to every story - yours, theirs and the truth somewhere in between - but the story - and lesson - should never be lost
We should not canonize someone in death out of guilt or remorse
For all the good we remember - there is always the darker side in each and every one of us that ought not to be forgotten
I do not think it is appropriate to "glorify" the dead
We must forgive the transgressions of others - optimally whilst they are here with us - but we must never forget - and should never contort what they - or we - are in life. ~me~

On Forever ( Aug 08 )

Nothing lasts "forever" ...

In fact - over the past few months I have come to realize that "always" and "forever" are two words that need not even exist - especially in the human context.

Im not sure what we would replace them with but ... it has been my experience that the very best this life has to offer is ... "for a long, long time", "most of the time", "more often that not", or how about just prefacing those two words with "ALMOST" ?

In any event - never say never . 
Absolutes are absolutely nonexistent and time - as we know it - on an earthly plane - will come to an eventual end.

Im An Appraiser ( Sept 08 )

I am an appraiser ...
I am also a Real Estate Broker and Home Inspector
All "dirty words" in today's economy and economic climate
Obviously - I think a LOT about the current "melt down" and yes - in some ways - I do feel a tad bit responsible - only in so far as I am associated with and practice in the very industry that is being held accountable for the current state of affairs
Back in 2005 I was telling people that exactly what DID happen was going to ...
No one would listen
Sellers were THRILLED to be getting "top dollar" for their homes - even if the "knew" they were "over charging"
Buyers were ECSTATIC about getting financed up to 125% of the purchase price and no one was complaining about the "tiny little white lies" going on their credit applications
Mortgage Brokers were having a field day closing loans hand over foot - all of them commission based of course with large additional fees being added on and paid up front
Then there were the Real Estate Salespeople ...
In an over active market they were working round the clock to accommodate all the business opportunities they could
Entre the "Investors" and "Speculators" ... "flippers" who gauged the market even more - buying and turning the sale just as fast as they could - often times even before the ink had dried. 
Unlike so many other appraisers my work load and volume was NOT picking up
Why ?
Because I REFUSED to participate in the questionable business practices that were making people "get rich quick"
I sat back and watched ... mostly in horror - ostracized from the very activity that I had come to love and know so well.
I did have a steady stream of work ... mostly from my conservative devoted clientele who had been working with me for years
I paid my bills but that was all
Now - as I look around me at the deluge and carnage I feel both sad and vindicated.
Who will pick up the tab ?
If anyone is so blind as to think that the Government bailouts are going to resolve even the tip of the iceberg they are sadly mistaken
Someone - somewhere - is going to have to swallow a very nasty pill and eventually it is going to have to trickle down to the "average joe" to absorb
Most of those responsible will never be held accountable
Oh - there will be the occasional witch hunt and public offering - and I feel sorry for those who are going to be used and hung out to dry in such an ugly fashion - but - by and large - the guilty will go unpunished
In fact - they will continue to prosper - as they always do - at "our expense"
Do I have a solution ?
Maybe ...
But that will be left for another time and blog
I am more interested in watching the current field of reaction

A Bug Muse ( Nov 08 )

Category: Life
Random thoughts you will have to extrapolate on ....
Sight and Vision are two very different themes
This concept touches on Bris whol Transeding Fear thing
Bigots Beware

PuppyKat - I Hope You Dance
BMan - Head For The Lite

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
- Helen Keller

The Bench

Finally– a bench!
After walking the Pike Market area for almost an hour we found the bus stop that would eventually return us to the hotel.
Safely securing our position on said bench – strategically placed so we could optimize our people watching skills – JT and I settled in for what would turn out to be one of the most amusing events of our entire excursion
I love to people watch
So does Johnny
Something else we have in common
Though – side note - when we come to discuss our observations – our opinions can get as diverse as any two peoples can be – we do enjoy the process
In any event – here we were – in downtown Seattle – waiting for our bus – and people watching
We gazed around the environment
Johnny was intrigued by the musical performance just behind us
It appeared to be an eclectic mix of Oriental and Indian people with some African Americans and a token few white singing and dancing to some techno Judaic Christian type motifs
I soon bored with that event and panned on to the northeast where on another bench – not more than 50 feet from us sat what I had originally thought to be a woman.
Just about the time I went to comment on her curious state of affairs JT chirped in and articulated what I had now come to ponder
Was it in fact a woman or a man?
The he / she was – by all accounts – strange to say the least
From head to toe “it” was a eclectic mix of avante guard and shabby chic
His (or was it her) hair was jet-black and shoulder length but this was all visually over powered by the fact that what little remained was painfully thin
It hung straight to the shoulder and they (he or she) was continually stroking it in a downward motion between their fingers
He – or was it her – was adorned entirely in black
Even his – I mean her – their - fingernails were manicured and polished – in co coordinating black
The shirt was long sleeved, falling mid drift just below the hip area which was causing me even greater difficulty in determining which gender the specimen was
With a rather pot bellied stance and awkwardly chivied gate I was getting no clues though by this time had determined – whatever the origin – this specimen was indeed a very gentle creature
I say gentle because – in spite of all their awkwardness – this person had an air about them – and though I dare not call it serene – so undeniable was it that I was caught in a most disconcerting yet humbled state all at the same time. 
As I continued to observe this person I could not help but think how it was that they came to this particular place and time
Johnny was wondering the same thing for as we turned to each other in disbelief the words just came flowing out of our mouths
As we exchanged our observations it became evident that our muse was in fact their with his / her companion.
There –off to the left – just between the music venue and our bench – was the second half of this intriguing duo.
Subject number two was just as unique if not more so
An aged creature with thick, long chaotically matted grey hair and a beard to match, he – and he was defiantly a HE – though dressed in a satin purple skirt and gold lamette blouse, was dancing – or more like undulating – around the square fanning colourful silk scarves thru the air.
Momentarily – the skirt clad character gathered up his props and headed towards our friend on the bench in front of us
There- the two systematically sorted thru, folded and packed up their belongings
After a short embrace they rose and headed off in the opposite direction to which JT and I were now making our way to
Once on the bus we just looked at each other in disbelief
Again we pondered as to what life choices had brought our friends to this place in their lives
I was boggled by the fact that they were at the very least some body’s children and quite probably at some point some body’s husband and father.
As our bus pulled out into the busy street I looked back out the window behind me\There I caught the last glimpse of the two walking hand in hand off into the crowd
It is irrelevant that our paths will never cross again
Point is – they did – and I am a changed person for it
Perhaps my greatest regret from the encounter is that I was only able to grab one quick and not very effective photograph to document the encounter and sadder still that I did not have the fortitude to introduce myself to them ...

( written September 2008 ) 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Voices ...

Voices …
Continual chatter
Going on in my head
More like debates
Going on with myself
On a regular basis
Reflections of the input
And constant stimuli
Ideas manifested
In my consciousness
By and thru universe
And sometimes even temporary resolutions
To be channeled out
Into this dimension
For the greater good of others.
Often burdensome …
To stop the process would be selfish
And so I submit
To the ageless process by which all things incarnate
One day
To find a peace
The ability to transcend
Gain insight
To take that has been offered
Find purpose
And make good of it